Subscription traps

It is common to see offers for cheap products online – especially on social media. These offers can result in expensive subscriptions or agreements. Here you can find information about what to do if you have accepted an offer and ended up with an unwanted subscription.

There are several ways to get caught in a subscription trap. For example, you might be invited to participate in market research that will enable you to buy a telephone for an unusually low price. Or you could receive samples of health foods or weight loss pills, where it seems like you only have to pay the shipping costs.

How do I know if I have fallen into a subscription trap?

It is often difficult to see that an offer is linked to a subscription – many consumers do not realise until they start receiving invoices in the mail, or when money suddenly starts leaving their bank account. It may also be difficult to recognise certain company names, which might be because the company is based in another EU country.

If the product was advertised as a trial, but when it is delivered it is marked as a “welcome package” this could be a sign that you have ended up with a subscription. The same applies if you have ordered a product, and then discover that you have been automatically signed up for an unrelated membership such as a computer anti-virus program.

Free advice

Contact Hallå konsument, Konsument Europa or consumer guidance services in your municipality if you believe you have been caught in a subscription trap and need advice. Advice is free of charge, no matter who you contact.

Contact information for Hallå konsumentet contact centre

(The link redirects to a website in English)

Contact information for Konsument Europa contact centre

(The link redirects to a website in English)

You are NOT automatically liable for payment 

If it was not clear that the offer you accepted was part of a subscription, there is no guarantee that you are tied to the subscription. Just because a company tells you that you are liable to pay for something does not mean that you are. It is always the duty of the company to show that an agreement exists and which conditions you agreed upon at the time of order.

Additionally, if you have received something you have not ordered, you are not liable for paying the return shipping costs.

Make the most of your cancellation rights

If you enter into a distance agreement, for example online or over the telephone, you will normally have a 14-day cancellation period if you are purchasing from a company registered in the EU, Norway or Iceland. This means that you can contact the company within two weeks of when you received the item or purchased the service and notify them that you have changed your mind. Do this in writing, such as by email and save a copy. If the company has not given you the right information about the cancellation period, this can be extended for up to one year.

If you have ordered something edible such as weight loss pills or health products, avoid opening the package if you want to express your cancellation rights.

Read more about cancellation rights and how to use them

(The link redirects to a website in English)

Contest an incorrect invoice

If you believe you are not liable to pay for a subscription, or that you have the right to your money back you must contest the demand. This means that you contact the company and either

  • tell them that you will not be paying and why, or
  • demand that the company refund the money that has already been withdrawn.

Do this in writing, such as by email and save a copy.

Template for contesting invoices

(The link redirects to a website in Swedish)

Read more about how to contest an incorrect invoice

(The link redirects to a website in English)

Make a claim with your bank

Sometimes if you have paid by card, you can make a claim with your bank if you were unable to get help directly from the company. It is important that you have already tried to solve the problem yourself by contacting the company. Remember to do this in writing so you can prove what you have done and what you have written.

When you then contact the bank, it is important that you also do this in writing. Clearly explain the problem and include copies of all the documents regarding your contact with the company (such as order confirmations and email correspondence). Also tell the bank that you have tried to solve the problem with the company yourself, but have been unsuccessful.

Read more about card claims

(The link redirects to a website in Swedish)

Debt collection agencies and the Swedish Enforcement Authority

Many consumers are worried that they will receive a black mark on their credit score if they are sent a payment reminder or a letter from a debt collection agency. Of course if you are liable to pay for something, it is important that you pay your bills on time. However, if you believe that a demand is incorrect you can contest it and this does not mean you will automatically receive a black mark on your credit score.

It is important for you to contest the demand with both the company you have an agreement with and any debt collection agencies. You must also respond to the Swedish Enforcement Authority if the company has applied for an order to pay. It is only if you do not contest the order to pay from the Swedish Enforcement Authority that you risk getting a black mark on your credit score.

Read more about black marks

(The link redirects to a website in Swedish)

Submit a report to the Swedish Consumer Agency if you have been affected

The Swedish Consumer Agency and the Consumer Ombudsman place extra focus on companies that operate these marketing methods and agreement structures. Therefore it is good if affected consumers report companies acting incorrectly to the Swedish Consumer Agency.

The Swedish Consumer Agency cooperates with consumer authorities around the world in the ICPEN Network. Many consumer authorities around the world operate similar campaigns about subscription traps as part of ICPEN Fraud Prevention Month.

Submit a complaint via the Swedish Consumer Agency website

(The link redirects to a website in Swedish)

Read more about ICPEN’s work on behalf of consumers

(The link redirects to a website in English)